How Pregnancy & Childbirth Can Lead To Depression & Anxiety In Both Women & Men

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Perinatal Mood Disorders are mood and anxiety symptoms that occur during pregnancy or up to one year postpartum. Thankfully, they are slowly gaining greater awareness. This awareness is helping women step out of the shadows of suffering long enough to ask for help, it's helping those closest to them recognize when help is needed, and it's shining a light on the fact that dads are also at risk.

When bringing home baby, new parents often hear that this is their “new normal", which can be an overwhelming thought when struggling with depression or anxiety. For moms with PMAD or dads with depression, our mental and physical health affects our ability to adapt to this more challenging phase of life.

It can be hard for moms and dads to admit that bringing home your bundle of joy is not as joyful as you imagined it would be. 

In this post, we'll look at some common symptoms of perinatal mood disorders so that you'll know when you or a loved one might need help.

Depression During Pregnancy

Depression is one of the most common complications during and after pregnancy. While it's normal for women to experience changes in their mood during pregnancy, when symptoms persist for a few weeks or when they begin to interfere with daily activities, it's wise to get help. This is especially true considering that depression and anxiety during pregnancy can continue or worsen into the postpartum period.

Common Symptoms (from UNC Medical Center):

  • Feeling sad, depressed, and/or crying a lot 
  • Diminished interest in becoming a mother
  • Feeling worthless or guilty, especially about not being a good mother
  • Strong anxiety, tension, and/or fear either about your future child or other things
  • Sleep problems (not being able to sleep despite feeling very tired or sleeping more than usual but not feeling rested)
  • Thoughts of wanting to be dead or wanting to kill yourself
  • Having low energy
  • Loss of or increase in appetite or weight
  • Trouble focusing, remembering things, or making decisions
  • Feeling restless or irritable
  • Having headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations, numbness, or hyperventilation

Postpartum Depression

Research has found that between 50% and 85% of new mother feel what is called the "baby blues", typically 1 to 3 weeks after giving birth. These feelings of sadness, irritability, anxiety, and loss of concentration are typically on the mild side and tend to dissipate after a couple of weeks.

However, around 10 of new mothers have a more serious condition, called Postpartum Depression, or PPD. Symptoms of PPD are typically more severe and last longer than a couple of weeks. The onset of PPD is typically in the first 2 to 3 months after giving birth, but can occur any time in the first year.

This is a potentially serious condition that can have major impacts on the health of the mother, baby, and extended family, so seeking help is imperative.

Common Symptoms (from UNC Medical Center):

  • Feeling sad, depressed, and/or crying a lot 
  • Intense anxiety; rumination, obsessions (See Postpartum Anxiety Disorders below)
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or incompetence
  • Fatigue, irritability, sleep disturbance
  • Change in appetite
  • Poor concentration
  • Feeling inadequate to cope with new infant
  • Excessive worry about baby’s health
  • Suicidal thoughts

Postpartum Anxiety

Postpartum anxiety disorders, with symptoms like panic attacks, hyperventilation, excessive worry, trouble sleeping, and repeated thoughts of harmful things happening to the baby, can be just as common as PPD and are often seen in addition to PPD.

These symptoms, if not treated, can lead to a condition known as Postpartum Psychosis. These symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thinking. This can be a life threatening condition and requires immediate evaluation and treatment.

Postpartum Depression For Dads

Recent studies have shown dads are also at risk for postpartum depression. Dads can experience a loss of how life used to be, loss of partner (possibly even loss of bedroom because baby has taken over), lack of sleep, and an increase in stress. Or maybe being a parent brings such joy, but your relationship is suffering. Often, both moms and dads need support in making the transition from couple to family, while still maintaining “US.”

Conclusion: We Can Help

We at KKJ want to help support you through your experience without judgment and provide you with the support you need. With help, you can learn to adapt to your new role as mom or dad, without feeling a loss of self and relationship.

Interested? Contact Lisa Foss at lisa@kkjpsych.com.


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Lisa Foss, MA

I offer therapeutic services to help with anxiety, depression, women’s issues, pregnancy difficulties, perinatal anxiety/depression, stress management, parenting stress, trauma, grief/loss, divorce, and life adjustments for all ages. I assist with psychological evaluations and provide child, adolescent and adult individual, and family therapy services.

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